Observed Through the Prism of Statistics – Nine Years of Intimate Partner Violence
The COVID-19 pandemic has also opened a new chapter concerning cases of domestic violence – social and economic tensions, isolation, the difficulty in accessing external support, and the increase in alcohol consumption seemed to fill the gaps in the walls that had widened due to years of struggle.
To illustrate, an increase of up to 25% was observed in countries with signalling systems, while in Brazil, the number of domestic violence cases increased by 40–50%; in Cyprus and Spain, the helplines received 20–30% more calls in the first days of the quarantine, furthermore, in the UK, within a week after strict social distancing and lockdown measures were introduced, the authorities received 25% extra calls related to domestic violence.
However, intimate partner violence is no longer shrouded in obscurity despite the tense circumstances. The appreciation of the criminal offence in question has changed radically due to the support from the government and the civil sphere during the pandemic, and the cases are becoming more and more visible towards the tenth anniversary of the criminal offence, with almost nine years of law enforcement practice behind us.
The present blog post endeavours to outline the current picture of intimate partner violence by processing and analysing statistical data, which project the image of a criminal offence that is increasingly emerging from invisibility. The examination opens with some thoughts on domestic violence as a phenomenon, which provides the framework of the examined criminal offence, and its raison d’être. Subsequently, reflecting on the ideas cited in the present part of the blog post, the first section it is followed by a summary of the nine years of intimate partner violence and a collection of the impressions of its prevalence, processing the latest statistical data according to the set criteria. Considering that the blog post was written in the spirit of displaying the greater or lesser results of the accumulated experiences with regard to intimate partner violence, the criminal offence that arises from its invisibility, it will be closed with a shorter conclusion, congruent with this introduction.
1. The Raison d’Être of Intimate Partner Violence – Thoughts on Domestic Violence
The concept of domestic violence is basically used to denote acts of violence between family members and intimate (sometimes former) partners, typically – but not exclusively – taking place at home; however, the diverse definitions interpret the scope of the phenomena deemed to belong here quite differently (Virág 2006, 380; Szöllősi 2005, 23–39). The narrower perception refers to the abuse within a partnership. At the same time, a broader interpretation encompasses all violence between people living in a joint household or between relatives, including those brought up in a ‘family-like situation’, and also covers the so-called also systemic abuse, which affects those residing in institutions; besides, the ‘middle way’ approach classifies abusive behaviours that appear in this ‘arrangement’ (by which we mean the ‘family’) as the expressions of domestic violence (Virág 2006, 380–381). In terms of classification, it is customary to categorise certain types of domestic violence according to the nature of the abuse and the victims.
The conceptual and classificational uncertainties are a good indication of the fundamental peculiarity related to the recognition of domestic violence (Virág 2006, 382): based on the acquired experience under several types of research, the individual types of domestic violence seldom appear separately, but usually emerge together, alternating each other, as parts of a process; as the abuses occurring in the family as a system are difficult to separate from each other. Besides other arguments (Kanyuk 2016, 32–33; Kanyuk 2018a, 216–224; Kanyuk 2018b, 20–32), this view is also justified by the fact that domestic violence should be viewed as a a criminological entity: it should also be noted that it could be regarded as one single entity by criminology, which examines criminality as a social phenomenon, substantive criminal law, which operates with normative categories, could not, or could only do so with difficulty (Pápai-Tarr 2017, 66; Virág 2006, 379).
As a consequence of the just-discussed nature of domestic violence, it should therefore be stated that it – as a concept developed by criminology – covers a vast range of behaviours that violate human rights, which differ both in terms of their danger to society and their prohibition under substantive criminal law (Váradi & Gilányi 2013, 515). The sanctioning of these acts was already present in our penal system; however, due to the pressure of civil movements and the ‘catalyst-like’ role of the increasingly large number of research results, the criminalisation of domestic violence took momentum coloured by new elements in Hungary, as in other countries as well (Virág 2006, 394).
In several strategies, the legislator committed to developing legal institutions and provisions outside substantive criminal law. One example of this is Parliamentary Resolution No. 45/2003 (IV. 16.) on developing a national strategy for preventing and effectively treating domestic violence, adopted by the Hungarian National Assembly on February 14, 2003. This considered the more careful application of the existing criminal law regulations and the introduction of some new legal institutions (e.g., restraining order) belonging to other branches of law to be a viable option; nonetheless, it did not consider the creation of a sui generis criminal offence to be justified. National non-governmental organisations (hereinafter: NGOs) representing the cause of action combating violence against women saw in the creation of Act C of 2012 on the Criminal Code (hereinafter: Criminal Code, CC) a good opportunity for the ideas represented by themselves – and those of international organisations – to achieve to appear in domestic criminal law as well. Therefore, at the end of a period of more than a decade full of disputes and listing proposals for solutions, within one month before the entry into force of the Criminal Code, the Hungarian National Assembly adopted Act LXXVIII of 2013 on the amendment of specific regulations concerning criminal law [Section 19, Subsection (5)], which piece of law defined the sui generis criminal offence of intimate partner violence, which was incorporated in Section 212/A of the CC.
2. The Statistical Trend of Intimate Partner Violence
The innumerable factors influencing the low registration of intimate partner violence are undeniable: the anomalies in the formulation of the criminal offence, such as conflicting opinions about the requirement of regularity, as well as the uncertainties concerning the questions regarding the classification and cumulation of different criminal offences that still exist to this day (Pápai-Tarr 2015, 625), supplemented by the latency arising from the nature of the phenomena itself, definitely could lead to the emptying of the criminal offence under examination.
In addition to – and despite – all of the factors mentioned above, the trend in the number of registered criminal offences of intimate partner violence has been continuously increasing since its ‘introduction’ in July 2013 and looking at the most recent data processed in 2021, the trend shows an unbroken and increasingly marked increase (see Figure 1). The increase under the described circumstances is an absolute miracle and testifies to the necessity of the criminal offence in question. Furthermore, it is given particular emphasis by the fact that the number of registered criminal offences in total has started to decline since the introduction of the effective CC, and the total crime rate is decreasing to an unprecedented extent in Hungary (see Figure 2).
Figure 1: Registered Criminal Offence of Intimate Partner Violence (2013–2021)
Source: Unified Criminal Statistics of the Investigation Authorities and the Prosecution Service (a), registered criminal offence: intimate partner violence
Figure 2: Registered Criminal Offences in Total (2013–2021)
Source: Unified Criminal Statistics of the Investigation Authorities and the Prosecution Service (a), registered criminal offences in total
In parallel with the increasing number of intimate partner violence – in the ‘favor’ of the criminal offence becoming visible – the number of certain criminal offences mentioned in the discussed one is gradually decreasing, for which we will attempt to show some illustrative examples.
3. Imprints of the Prevalence of Intimate Partner Violence
The finding mentioned above is clearly ‘visible’ in the case of the criminal offence of duress (Section 195 of the CC). The number of criminal offences gradually decreased after the entry into force of intimate partner violence in 2013 (see Figure 3).
Figure 3: Registered Criminal Offence of Duress (2010–2021)
Source: Unified Criminal Statistics of the Investigation Authorities and the Prosecution Service; Handout of the Office of the Prosecutor General (b), registered criminal offence: duress
All this could not be clearly stated when analysing the development of the number of abuse of a minor (Section 208 of the CC), which may be since, due to the nature of the criminal offence, it is often in cumulation with intimate partner violence (see, for instance, the following judicial decisions: Debreceni Ítélőtábla Bf.4.339/2019/6.; Kúria Bfv.878/2019/9.; EBD2017.B.16.) (see Figure 4).
Figure 4: Registered Criminal Offence of Abuse of a Minor (2010–2021)
Source: Unified Criminal Statistics of the Investigation Authorities and the Prosecution Service; Handout of the Office of the Prosecutor General (b), registered criminal offence: abuse of a minor
An illustrative example is the review of the number of victims involved in the criminal offence of slander (Section 227 of the CC), as by analysing that group – rather than the criminal offence itself –, the statistical system enables a narrowing based on the relationship between the perpetrator and the victim. In this way, it is visible that although slander – similarly to intimate partner violence – betoken a criminal offence whose statistical indicators are increasing, compared to the decreasing overall crime rate; narrowing it down to the range of victims of intimate partner violence, we have to consider a definite – although in 2020, a reversing – decrease following the entry into force of ‘competing’ intimate partner violence in 2013, as of 2014 (see Figure 5).
Figure 5: Registered Victims Involved in the Criminal Offence of Slander (2010–2021)
Source: Unified Criminal Statistics of the Investigation Authorities and the Prosecution Service; Handout of the Office of the Prosecutor General (c), registered criminal offence: slander
The same experiences could be drawn concerning battery (Section 164 of the CC), which shows the same statistical trends, but has a much higher number of victims than those involved in slander. In the present case, the decrease to the detriment of intimate partner violence due to the more significant numbers is even more visible in the statistical data as of 2014 (see Figure 6).
Figure 6: Registered Victims Involved in the Criminal Offence of Battery (2010–2021)
Source: Unified Criminal Statistics of the Investigation Authorities and the Prosecution Service; Handout of the Office of the Prosecutor General (c), registered criminal offence: battery
Closing Remarks: Old and New Challenges – Expanding Reactions
At the end of our analysis, it should be concluded that intimate partner violence certainly raises many dogmatic and classificational questions, as well as difficulties in interpretation (Pápai-Tarr 2015; Kanyuk 2016), and in the nine years that have passed, legal practice has not yet revealed all the dilemmas. Conscious of the anomalies regarding the criminal offence in question, the revealed statistical analyses are given even more weight. It attests to the fact that, despite all its difficulties, the criminal offence of intimate partner violence produces increasing statistical presence even among the decreasing overall crime; despite the initial doubts, the creation of the criminal offence was necessary, and there is a real need at its application.
Nevertheless, we could not ignore the fact that the existence of the criminal offence is only one opportunity, and in practice, not specifically that kind which is easily accessible by the victims of domestic violence. In order to achieve the greatest possible change concerning the current image, and to ensure that the victims be able to contact the authorities in time and with confidence, in line with the ideas of the well-recognised expert on the subject, Judge Dr. Ágnes Frech, above all, a much more powerful educational work should be done, to raise awareness of the possibility of victim assistance, to provide the effective operation of child protection alert systems and, last but not least, a versatile, up-to-date training of the professionals acting in such matters would be necessary.
At the same time, various forms of movements aimed at reducing community tolerance towards domestic violence are of outstanding importance, such as short films showing forms of abuse that – unfortunately – could also be apostrophised as 'ordinary'; a series of national campaigns, secret shelters and crisis centres created specifically for victims of domestic violence, organised by the National Crisis Management and Information Telephone Service (the so-called OKIT), operating in a procedure supported by experts; as well as legislative proposals and packages of measures created in the name of the fight against domestic violence and the achieving of a higher level of protection for families. It should also be noted that in the ‘mission’ which aims to integrate intimate partner violence into legal practice, the National Institute of Criminology (the so-called OKRI) gained invaluable merits by the preparing Research Report No. 2018/III.B/1.28. The report assessing the practical experience of intimate partner violence, based on criminal statistical data, round table discussions and professional focus group consultations, prosecutor’s questionnaires, and criminal document reviews, involved the processing of a total of 556 prosecution files (see Garai 2018).
In summary, our findings lead us to conclude that solving the problems surrounding the examined criminal offence has substantial significance. Intimate partner violence, created in the sensitive area of the fight against domestic violence, should serve as an accurate tool for those in need; for the sake of fulfilling its mission and turning the dreams of those who patronise the criminal offence into a ‘visible’ reality.
For a list of references, click HERE.
Author: dr. Petra Ágnes Kanyuk, Ph.D. Student, University of Debrecen, Marton Géza Doctoral School of Legal Studies.
Supported by the ÚNKP-21-3 New National Excellence Program of the Ministry for Innovation and Technology from the source of the National Research, Development and Innovation Fund.
 „...this criminal offence is mostly invisible as if it does not exist.” Garai 2017, 186.
 The following study points out the difficulties of defining the concept of 'family' in a legal sense: Madai 2021, 338.
 Physical violence, neglect, emotional abuse, sexual violence or abuse and economic or social abuse. For more details, see Virág, Kulcsár & Rosta 2019, 584.
 Abuse of children – in some cases, former – spouse or partner, abuse of the elderly and other relatives. See more ibid.
 „The ‘wife beating’, for example, is usually coupled with continuous mental torture and is often accompanied by sexual violence.” Morvai 1998, 14.
 All along, NGOs have advocated the creation of a complex, comprehensive criminal offence. Finally, the popular initiative of Pálma Halász, the head of the Élet-Érték Foundation, led to a result: „the Hungarian National Assembly should put on the agenda that there should be a sui generis criminal offence of domestic violence in Hungary.” See national popular initiative No. H/7685., adopted by the Hungarian National Assembly on September 17, 2012.
 Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW), in its Concluding Comments in its Sixth Periodic Report concerning Hungary, acknowledged that the State Party had taken specific measures to combat domestic violence but expressed concern about the lack of a sui generis criminal offence regarding violence against women and domestic violence. This direction was strengthened by the Council of Europe Convention on preventing and combating violence against women and domestic violence, better known as the Istanbul Convention. The essence of the Convention is discussed in more detail in the following paper: Sebestyén 2018. In connection with the Convention mentioned above, it should be noted that the process of ratification is not without obstacles at the domestic and EU level as well. On several occasions, the European Parliament has called on the Member States that have not yet accepted the Convention, including Hungary, to ratify it without delay (see Europarl.europa.eu 2019; Europarl.europa.eu 2020). However, the Hungarian National Assembly expressly rejected the Convention’s ratification in May 2020.
 It should be noted that even the naming of the criminal offence caused controversy. Among others, it was suggested that the term ‘violence’ should be defined as ‘domestic’, ‘intimate’, ‘between cohabitants’, or – based on the English sample – connect them with the expression ‘at home’. Blaskó 2018, 217.
 It should be noted that this kind of narrowing is only possible between January 1, 2013, and June 30, 2018, due to changes in the statistical system that started in the second half of the year 2018. In this way, 2018 only contains the data for the year’s first half concerning the relationship between the perpetrator and the victim.